To celebrate the London Festival of Architecture, Futurecity and Atelier Ten present HumaNature, an exhibition exploring the innovative ways in which design can merge the human-made and natural worlds. Visit the exhibit at The Gallery at Foyles through 29 July 2019.

Looking at four of our projects across three continents, we explore the adaptable capacity of nature to work within and around the built world as a vital agent of social, physical and environmental wellbeing.

Whether plants are invited into a human environment, or humans become guests in a plant world – the boundaries between manmade and natural are blurring. Building sustainably continues to mean building for the future.

Gardens by the Bay: Plant world x human visitors

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay provides Singaporeans with access to 54 hectares of landscaped gardens. Set in these gardens are two cooled conservatories recreating a cool dry Mediterranean springtime and the cool moist conditions of tropical mountain regions.

Plant world

Plants need light levels of at least 45,000 lux; 100 times typical office light levels.
To maintain sufficient daylight while blocking heat gains that would make the biomes unhospitable for people posed a considerable design challenge.

Dome geometries

We worked iteratively with the architects and structural engineers to analyse how the geometry of the building envelope could best respond to the daylighting criteria. A natural shape, the hyperbolic curve, is most efficient, enclosing a large volume within a relatively small surface area.

The design is based on a spectrally-selective double-glazed unit that transmits 65% of incident daylight with only 35% of solar heat. Light comes through while UV radiation is filtered out.

Human visitors

Comfort along pathways is from an integrated displacement ventilation system. Chilled water is embedded into the pathways to directly absorb solar heat incident on the floors.
Displacement ventilation allows only the occupied areas of the domes to be conditioned while creating a natural heat reservoir in the unoccupied portions.

The cooling and dehumidification system operates on waste timber collected from the pruning of Singapore’s street trees, making this a zero carbon project.

Human scale

Jewel Changi Airport: Natural force x human epicentre

Jewel Changi Airport

Forty-seven percent of Singapore is covered with trees and gardens. Since the vision of Singapore as a “City in a Garden” was set in 1967 a number of projects have contributed to its status as one of the world’s greenest places. No surprise, then, that as the gateway to Singapore, Jewel Changi Airport would feature the natural environment in such a central way.

Natural force

From our work on Gardens by the Bay (also in Singapore), we knew that resolving the competing demands between abundant heat and light needed for plants, and superior passenger thermal comfort and people and plants would be the key challenge.

Level 5 garden

Using a combination of bespoke ray tracing and illuminance prediction software, we modelled the light coming through each triangular cell of the roof, for each hour of the year. In addition to spectrally selective glazing, a frit pattern was applied in varying densities to modulate the light levels throughout the building.

We collaborated with PWP landscape design to develop a planting palette. Species that require higher light levels were placed in areas with less frit, and vice versa.

Human epicentre

A person is never happier than when she is comfortably immersed and awed by nature.

Comfortably is the key word. Temperature, humidity and air movement had to be carefully controlled to ensure human occupants could stay comfortable while traversing the airport on their way to or from their flights.

Displacement ventilation

Keeping these elements constant over such a large space would require significant amounts of energy – so instead we developed a strategy to only condition the occupied zones.

Some of the zones are conditioned like outdoor spaces, with higher air movement simulating breezes and providing additional cooling effects.

The majority of the hard floor surfaces have embedded chilled water pipes, providing cooling only at the lowest level and allowing heat gains to rise through the space.

WWF-UK Living Planet Centre: Conservation centre x embodied nature

WWF-UK Living Planet Centre

From the outset of this project, it was evident that exceptional standards of environmental performance were a prerequisite for the headquarters of the World Wildlife Fund.

Conservation centre

Six years after its completion, this building still serves as an industry exemplar of sustainable design and high quality office space.

The headquarters of the WWF in the UK were designed to tread lightly on the environment, and increase human connection to nature.

Wind cowls

We worked with the architect to create well daylit spaces for visual comfort, occupant wellbeing and ecological enhancement. In addition to bringing in daylight, the windows provide a visual connection to the trees and planting surrounding the building.

Air is supplied naturally to the building for most of the year. As it is drawn in through earth ducts the air is tempered; warm exhaust air leaves via roof cowls.

Embodied nature

By designing a building that enhances occupant connection to their environment, the design team realised we had also designed a building in which plants would thrive.

Natural light, natural ventilation – plants love these in their environment as well. The air conditioning system in the building is not very strong, used only when the indoor temperature exceeds 28°C. This reduces energy consumption and the plants are kept happy.

Southbank by Beulah: Human heights x green intervention

Southbank by Beulah

Southbank by Beulah is organised around the Green Spine – a twisting, vertical garden rising, like Jack’s beanstalk, from the ground to touch the sky. The development will be truly mixed use, with residential, retail, office, and hotel accommodation within the towers as well as public communal and commercial spaces in the podium.

Human heights

The aim was to create a new hub of culture, community and leisure while embracing the human connection to nature.

Design strategies

All the design decisions were made with the aim to enhance occupant health and well-being, from the materials and building mechanical systems selection, to building massing, layout arrangement, and the ways nature and planting will be integrated into the scheme.

The canyon between the two towers massing brings sunlight into the public communal areas at the base of the towers, enhancing human enjoyment of the amenity spaces. The façade roughness of the Green Spine will mitigate cold downdraught effects at the bottom of the two towers in winter.

Green intervention

The planting on the façade filters polluted urban air, mitigates external noise and provides respite from summer heat by gently humidifying air and providing solar shade.

Pocket parks, as intimate gathering spaces scattered throughout the residential tower, invite the residents to relax, meet and enjoy a sense of community within their living environment.

This exhibition, presented by Atelier Ten and Futurecity, held at Foyles’ Gallery on the fifth floor, is on display until 29 July.

Gallery at Foyles